In this edition, we finish the Trent-Severn Waterway, have some engine maintenance done, see some Giant Flower Pots, and the world’s largest Canoe Paddle!

Day 83 – Wed, 08/16 – In Orillia, Ontario, Canada

Brenda and Tim’s friend Lloyd, who was visiting from Florida, was on a tight schedule, so Indigo left for Port Severn on Wednesday, and Brenda and I stayed behind in Orillia. Orillia was one of our favorite town stops on our last trip. The downtown has several unique shops, including a massive General Store/Bakery.

We walked downtown in the morning. The last time we were here, they had a street art display of bicycles. This year, the theme is Guitars. There are hand-decorated guitar fronts all up and down the main street.

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One of our Favorite General Stores on the Loop last time was the Mariposa Market. That was our first stop, and it’s three floors of Goodies, Souvenirs, Gifts, and a Cafe. Completely amazing! After about an hour of browsing there, we walked to the end of the retail district and back, stopping in at a few interesting shops. It was early afternoon, and we had skipped breakfast (we did pick up some pastries for tomorrow’s breakfast!), so we stopped at the Couchiching Brewing Company for lunch. Very Tasty!

After lunch, we grabbed a picture of Brenda in her wings, then headed back to the boat for a nap.

It was in the 80s and a beautiful sunny day. Around 3:00, we heard the Air Conditioner on the boat go quiet. The power on the microwave blipped once and went out as well. We’ve had power issues in the past (Montreal, for example). First, we made sure it wasn’t our boat that was an issue. When I went out to check the circuit breakers on the shore power pedestal, a few other boaters were also outside checking. One of the boaters went up to the dock office and heard that it was a widespread outage.

We turned on the generator and solved the problem temporarily. After about an hour, I took a walk up to the office and noticed some flashing yellow lights on the road (currently under construction) in front of the marina. I took a walk and found out that one of the construction vehicles had backed into and snapped a power pole. The crews from Hydro One, the local utility, were replacing the pole and had cut power while working on it. (Thanks to “Bobs Decline,” a YouTube channel I watch for educating me on how the power distribution network works!)

I asked one of the linemen how long they thought, and shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Two to three hours?” At 5:00, we walked into town for dinner. When we got back, the power was still not back on, so Brenda and I took a walk to where the trucks were working. All of the trucks were gone, and there was a brand-new pole in place. As we were walking back to the boat, the street lights along the waterfront came on, and we could hear a cheer in the distance from the docks. We would sleep comfortably tonight!

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Tim, Brenda, and Lloyd on Indigo successfully navigated the Big Chute Lock! Lloyd was happy to have been able to experience it, and has decided that his big Grand Banks is too big to make the trip! Lloyd was going to take a taxi from Port Severn back to Orillia to pick up his car but decided to continue on to Midland the next day.

Day 84 – Thu, 08/17 – From Orillia, ON to Port Severn, ON – 42 miles, Travel Time: 5hrs 33min, 3 Locks

On Thursday, we followed Indigo toward Georgian Bay. There were only three locks on today’s agenda. However, the last lock was the “Big Chute,” also known as the Marine Railroad. At this lock, you float your boat onto a submerged rail car. They adjust some straps to hold you steady, and then the rail car comes out of the water, up a hill, across a road, and down the other side of the hill, and re-floats you on the other side. It’s an amazing bit of engineering!

On the way, the first two locks are pretty standard. Just before our first lock, there was a railroad bridge for a very active rail line. The channel here is pretty narrow, and there were three of us waiting for the bridge to open. A sign said the next opening would be at 10:00, about a 45-minute wait. When you are in a channel, you switch from forward to reverse on the engines to keep the boat in relatively the same position, fighting wind and current.

We watched a train go over the bridge, and just as it opened, I noticed that the port engine was not coming out of reverse! It was stuck in gear, which means you do circles backward in a narrow channel!

(Expletives Deleted!)

I tried moving the shift lever into forward and back into reverse but nothing was working. So, I shut down the engine to regain control of the boat so I didn’t run into the bank or another boat. The lock was just a couple of hundred feet away, so we radioed the boat in front of us to let them know we were having issues and headed for the waiting wall at the lock. Some folks on shore gave us a hand wrangling the boat to the wall in the wind and with one engine. We got tied up safely.

I went down into the engine room, expecting that the transmission (the same one we had just rebuilt) had failed. After some investigation, I figured out that the shift cable from the lower (inside) steering station had snapped. I used some zip ties and got it to where I could use the upper steering station, and we moved from inside to the flybridge. Never a dull moment!

As is true all along the Trent-Severn waterway, there are many unique cottages along the way and two swing bridges. Lock 43 is the largest “lift” (or drop, in our case) on the waterway at an impressive 47 feet! We went through Lock 43 and headed to the Big Chute.

The Big Chute lock has been experiencing maintenance issues all season. We had heard they had closed the lock at 10:30 for repairs, so we didn’t know how long we would have to wait when we arrived. We have heard that some boats recently had to wait 1-2 days!

When we got there at 2:30, we pulled up to the waiting dock. The train car was parked in front of the cable building and apparently not moving. As we finished tying up, we saw the lockkeepers climb onto the rail car, and it started moving! There was one large boat in front of us, and they could only handle one large boat at a time, so they put them through. About 20 minutes later, the rail car came up over the hill and back into the water. One smaller boat was locking through with us, and they went onto the rail car first, and then it was our turn. After some jostling, we were safely strapped in, and the car started moving!

Just as we came out of the water, there was a flash of lightning and a roll of thunder. Because we were already in the slings, they finished our run to the bottom of the hill, but the lock closed after us due to the lightning in the area. (We heard later that it was closed for 2 hours after we went through due to the weather).

Once through, it was just a few zig-zaggy miles to Port Severn, in a down-pour (remember I had to drive from the Fly Bridge, so I was outside in the weather (Brenda stayed downstairs). The rain stopped just as we got to the marina, and we got tied up between downpours. In the evening, there was a break in the weather, so we walked to the Rawley Resort just down the street for dinner.

We got back to the boat just as the next round of thunderstorms started, and it stormed most of the night and into the next day.

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Day 85 – Fri, 08/18 – In Port Severn, ON

Our plan was to only stay in Port Severn for one night. From Port Severn to Midland, our next stop, there is a fair amount of open water. Thursday morning, it was pouring and very windy so we decided to stay put in Port Severn for the day.

This gave me a chance to take apart the shift mechanism and see if I could get some part numbers. Given that it’s a French boat with many Italian parts, I figured that I was looking at a long wait for parts. I checked the parts diagram for the boat online and they didn’t even list the cables. After taking apart the shift mechanism, I found that the cables were made by Glendinning, a company about 5 miles from our old home in South Carolina! I called them, and they were closed for a “Software Upgrade.”.

I reached out to Michael, my mechanic, and he was able to cross-reference the cable to two other manufacturers. “Thanks Again, Michael!” I did an online search to see if I could find them in Canada with no luck. I then tried a couple of US vendors to see if they would express ship them to me at our next port. Again, no luck. We had scheduled some service at our next port “Midland” and Brenda suggested calling them to see if they had a source. I called Bay Port Yacht Center and spoke with the parts guy, and he said, “I’ll call you back.” (I figured I wouldn’t hear back). 5-minutes later, he called back. “They will be here Monday,” he said. Woo Hoo!

After putting the shift mechanism back together so we could go to Midland, Brenda informed me that the flush pump on one of the toilets was leaking “stuff.” A quick analysis showed that the seals had let go. A rebuild kit for the toilet is $95 and takes 5-7 days to arrive. A whole new pump is $185 and gets delivered the next day. I ordered both so that I could replace the pump quickly and rebuild the old one later to have a spare.

Whenever I’m feeling down about maintenance issues with the boat, I just have to listen to others on the dock. There was a 58′ 2021 Sabre Down Easter (about a $3 million boat) two slips down. On Friday morning, a Haz-Mat van showed up with six 55-gallon drums. They pumped out all of the fuel from the boat and then spent the day cleaning the fuel tanks. The owner apparently intended to “top off” his “water tanks” and put water in the fuel tanks instead. Oops! There is an old saying: “You don’t need smarts to own a boat, just money.” Between the hazmat fee to pump out the tanks, the disposal fee for the contaminated fuel, the mechanic to flush his lines, and refilling 500 gallons of diesel, I’ll bet that cost him $10,000+.

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Day 86 – Sat, 08/19 – From Port Severn, ON to Midland, ON – 12 miles, Travel Time: 1hrs 45min, 1 Lock

Saturday was a MUCH better travel day. It was still windy but bright and sunny. We could see our next (and last) Lock on the Trent-Severn just a few hundred feet from the marina, and at 8:00, an hour before they opened, there was already a line of boats waiting to go through. Since we only had 12 miles to go, we decided to wait until the backlog cleared. At 11:00, they had locked through a couple of times, and new boats still kept showing up, so we threw lines and joined the queue. We waited about an hour before we got through and ended up locking through with a couple of larger boats and 12 jet skis! The Lockees were really packing us in!

Once we got through, it was a fairly smooth ride to Midland and Bay Port Yachting Center, where we planned to stay for five days to have our fuel injectors replaced, replace the shift cable, change the oil, replace the toilet pump, and a few other fun maintenance tasks.

We arrived around 2:30 and docked one pier over from Indigo, who had arrived two days before.

Brenda and Tim had rented a car for a few days to do some sightseeing, and in the evening, we drove into Midland to go to the Annual Tug Boat Meet and a BBQ festival. We had a great dinner at the BBQ festival and walked around looking at the tug boats and the large murals that decorate the sides of buildings all over town.

That evening, we walked to the end of the breakwater to watch the lighted tugboat parade. We were a bit far, but it was still pretty to see downtown all lit up.

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Day 87 – Sun, 08/20 – In Midland, ON

Sunday was a work day. I changed the oil in both engines and the transmissions. Swapped out the oil filters and did some cleaning in the engine room. That took until 3:00 or so.

Day 88 – Mon, 08/21 – In Midland, ON

On Monday, we were expecting the technician to arrive around 10:00, so we pulled the floor out of the boat and got it ready for the injectors to be replaced.

While we were waiting, Brenda and Brenda H played Scrabble, did a geocache, and entertained Riggs. I went to the parts store and picked up our replacement shifter cable and extra transmission oil and did some puttering on the boat.

The technician got tied up on another boat, and at 4:00, we found out that he would not be with us until the morning. We put the boat back together, and I took a bike ride downtown along the rail trail to drop off some mail at the post office. Later on, Brenda and I rode the bikes back into town to the Canadian Pub for dinner.

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Day 89 – Tue, 08/22 – In Midland, ON

In the morning, we pulled up the floor again to give the technician easy access to the engines. Just after 8:00, he arrived, and we spent the next several hours replacing the fuel injectors on the port engine. This process went pretty well and we were done with the port engine when he broke for lunch and to do a small emergency job on another boat.

While he was gone and I had easy access to the engine room, I removed the shifters and prepared to replace the shift cable. Many of the wires, control cables, hoses, and engines are installed in the boat during manufacture BEFORE they put the top part of the boat on the bottom. They also tie-wrap the hoses and wires very tightly so that they don’t rattle. When I replaced the sewer hoses last year, I learned this quite well. It was a real struggle to get the hoses out.

I was prepared for a real struggle to get the old cable out and the new cable in. After un-hooking both ends, I did a test pull, and it slid through the fixings pretty well. I attached the end of the new cable to the end of the old cable, and it pulled right through with a minimum of effort! Sometimes, you do get a break!

I had the new cable installed and the shift levers back in place by the time the technician returned. We spent the rest of the afternoon working on the starboard engine, which was not quite as easy. As we removed the old injectors, we compared them to each other and the new ones, and even though they had the exact same part numbers, there were three distinctly different styles. It’s not obvious unless you put them side by side, but they were clearly different. The technician said that they have had defective parts issues with all of the manufacturers since Covid.

The part of the injector that seats into the engine block was a different style, and it was clear why we were getting so much smoke as they were not correctly seated.

Once we finished the starboard engine, we started up the boat, and there was a dramatic difference! We planned to take the boat out on a test run the following day to really check if that fixed our issue.

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That evening, we went back into town with Indigo for a farewell dinner as they were leaving in the morning.

Day 90 – Wed, 08/23 – In Midland, ON

Tim, Brenda, and Riggs left for northern Georgian Bay on Wednesday morning. They were going to visit Henry’s Fish Restaurant and Parry Sound, must-see stops, but places that Brenda and I had already been. Brenda and I planned to take a southern route and visit some new spots before meeting back up in Killarney in a few days.

In the late morning, we untied the boat and took it out into the bay for a good test run to check the new injectors. Everything ran great! The smoke was almost completely gone, and we could feel a performance difference! We were out for about an hour and put the boat through its paces.

When we got back, I checked the injector bolts’ tightness and fluid levels from the oil change. I went to the parts store to pick up a few spare nuts and bolts and another few quarts of transmission fluid.

That evening, Brenda and I rode the bikes back into town for dinner. We really love these electric bikes!

Day 91 – Thu, 08/24 – In Midland, ON

It was a cloudy day Thursday with on-and-off showers. Now that the boat was in good shape, we thought it was time for us to get “fixed up” as well. Brenda made an appointment at a hair salon, and I found a barber that could take me. We rode the bikes into town and as we rounded the corner and could see the downtown docks, we were surprised to see a large cruise ship in town! Quite a sight.

Once we had our haircuts, we walked around town and checked out a few more murals. It started to drizzle, so we headed back to the boat.

When we returned to the boat, we packed up the bikes, had leftovers for dinner, and called it an early evening as we had a long day planned for Friday.

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Day 92 – Fri, 08/25 – From Midland, ON to Tobermory, ON – 105 miles, Travel Time: 6hrs 21min

When we were in Starport Marina, we were talking to another boater and they told us about a little town called Tobermory on the southern side of Georgian Bay. It’s not a regular stop for loopers, as it is a bit of a hike from the regular stops. Since we visited the regular stops on our last trip, we decided to try Tobermory this time.

The trip there was long, 105 miles, but the weather was good and we were able to run a little faster and kept it to 6 hours. There are two main routes: out into the open waters of Georgian Bay or ducking between islands along the shore. We took the island ducking route to keep out of the winds and waves.

Tobermory is an old fishing village. It’s right at the transition from Georgian Bay to Lake Huron and is on the major shipping routes. It’s also at the end of the Bruce Peninsula and has many unique features!

Tobermory, Ontario

First, if you want to drive from Toronto to anywhere in Northern Ontario, driving to the end of the Bruce Peninsula, then taking the ferry that runs from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island, and then the Little Current Bridge is the shortest route. As such, they run a large ferry that handles 160 vehicles per trip and does 4 round trips daily. It is almost always full!

Second, there are many shipwrecks both in the harbors and just offshore. The water is so clear that you can see the wrecks under the water. It’s a huge spot for people to go scuba diving (even in the cold water), and the docks are lined with dive shops and dive boats.

Third, there is a nice little tourist town with shops and restaurants all around the harbor. Lots to see and do. Also, the harbor is very protected from the wind and waves. We appreciated this on our second day there.

Fourth, just a mile outside of the harbor is “Flower Pot Island,” which has large natural stone pillars that look like Flower Pots. Three tour boat companies in town will take you out in glass bottom boats to see the shipwrecks and Flower Pot Island.

Fifth, there is a Canadian National Park, with lots of hiking and a cool observation tower. This is also one end of the Bruce Trail that runs over 560 miles from Tobermory to Queenstown, Ontario, on the US Border.

Needless to say, there was a lot to do!

We arrived in town at 2:30 in the afternoon. On our way in we stopped to fill up our tanks with cheap (for Canada) diesel. After we filled up, we moved to our slip right at the end of “Little Tub Harbor” in the middle of downtown. Our dock mate was “Green Frog”, and we were greeted by the local duck welcoming committee. Tobermory has two harbors, “Little Tub” for pleasure and tour boats, and “Big Tub,” which has two old wrecks and is the home of the Canadian Coast Guard Station.

We went to a pub that overlooked the harbor and had a docking beer and a snack. We then went and explored the town. As we were walking on the high bank above the harbor, we heard a loud ship’s horn and saw the Chi-Cheemaun ferry coming into port. As it approached its dock, the entire front of the ship lifted to expose the loading ramp. Very impressive!

In the evening, we walked to the Tobermory Brewing Company for dinner. Saturday was predicted to be a very windy day. We got confirmation of this when the Canadian Coast Guard moved their boats from the harbor entrance to the dock next to us, and a few other local boats also came in to get the protection of the harbor.

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Day 93 – Sat, 08/26 – In Tobermory, ON

Saturday was clear but very windy. The area had small craft advisories, and even the tour boats were canceled. The only thing running was the big car ferry.

We took a walk to the ferry terminal, where we could see out into Georgian Bay. The waves were full of white caps and looked in the 3-4 foot range. We were glad we were safely tied up in “Little Tub”!

We watched them loading the ferry. They can get 160 ish vehicles onto the Ferry in under 20 minutes. Impressive!

We walked through town and down the other side of the harbor to the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Center, about a mile away. The visitor center had some nice displays and featured a 62-foot viewing tower that gives a 360° view of Tobermorey, Flowerpot Island, and the surrounding area. It was really windy at the top, and the tower was swaying slightly, which was like being on the boat!

We walked back to the harbor area, stopping to watch some people scuba-diving on one of the wrecks. The water temperature was “warm,” we were told. 65°! Burrrr…

While walking down the docks, we stopped to visit with a fellow Looper boat, “Tortue de Mer,” who had spent the summer in Tobermorey. And, just past them, we saw another boat named “Frog”!

That evening, we went to one of the Fish Shacks for a “White Fish” dinner. White Fish is in the salmon family, slightly smaller, and with a nice firm white flesh, sort of like haddock.

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Day 94 – Sun, 08/27 – In Tobermory, ON

Sunday morning, the weather was much better. The wind had died down overnight, and the tour and fishing boats were preparing to go back out. There was a train of wagons all filled with diving gear at the end of the dock!

We walked into town for breakfast and visited a few of the shops we had missed yesterday, then stopped to see about taking one of the glass-bottom boat tours. There was one available at 2:30 that visited the ship wreaks and went around some of the islands in the Five-Fathoms National Park and Flower Pot Island.

At 2:30, we walked to the tour boat, which was almost next to us on the other side of the basin. Once we boarded, we got a great selfie of us and the Frog. As we pulled out, we passed the Tobermory Lighthouse and went from Little Tub Harbor into Big Tub Harbor, where two shipwrecks are located. Private boats are not allowed into the area of the wrecks, and you need a special permit from Parks Canada, so commercial tour boats are the only way to see them.

We passed over the wreck, and it was amazing! You didn’t need the glass bottom to see it. The view from the deck was just as spectacular due to the clear water.

From there, we went to Russell and Cove Islands. They told us that all but two of the islands in the Tobermory area are part of the Five-Fathoms National Park and are managed by Parks Canada. All are pretty much uninhabited. However, you can get camping permits for Flowerpot Island, which has a visitor center.

The islands are in relatively deep water. The depth of just 20 feet from shore is over 50 feet in most places. This let the boats get very close to shore and slip between the narrow channels in the islands. The shores of the islands are very rocky, with some cliffs going up 150 ft from the edge of the water.

We cruised around Flower Pot Island, first past the old lighthouse sight and then to the East side where the “Flower Pots” are. The cruise boat went within about 30 feet of shore, so we got a good view of them!

The cruise was about 2 hours long, and we got back into the harbor around 4:30. It was nice to let someone else do the driving so that we could relax and enjoy the view and have a tour guide to provide information.

Right next to the boarding area for the tour boat is a “Beaver Tail” shop. Beaver Tails are similar to “Fried Dough” or “Funnel Cake” at fairs. They tend to be a little thinner and crispier than Fried Dough but just as tasty. We had our dessert before dinner!

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When we got back to the boat, it was almost time for the Car Ferry to arrive. I pulled out the drone and flew around taking some photos of the area and the Ferry arriving. This was our last day in Tobermory, so we went for another Fresh Local Whitefish Dinner.

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